College Paper Didn’t Defame Cameraman

     (CN) – A Texas cameraman was not defamed by a college newspaper report that he had unwittingly tipped off the Branch Davidians of the FBI raid on their compound in 1993, a Texas appeals court ruled.




     James Peeler is a TV cameraman in Waco, Texas. He had been informed that the raid was going to take place.
     However, Peeler got lost on the way to the Davidian compound and asked a postman for directions. That postman turned out to be the brother-in-law of Davidian leader David Koresh, who died along with 75 of his followers in a fire during the raid.
     Peeler sued Baylor University after its student newspaper mentioned in a pair of stories that the Davidians knew about the impending FBI raid as a result of Peeler’s conversation with the postman.
     The 10th Court of Appeals upheld summary judgment for the university on the defamation claim, saying Peeler “failed to challenge each ground on which the trial court may have rendered judgment.” Because the trial court didn’t specify why it ruled for Baylor, Peeler needed to challenge all of the university’s defenses.
     Peeler also appealed the trial court’s decision not to remove Baylor’s counsel, because both sides were defendants in previous federal litigation relating to the raid. The trial court denied the motion, and the appeals court upheld the decision.
     “Because Peeler has not met his burden that of establishing that Baylor’s counsel had access to any confidential information to which the joint defense privilege applies, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying his motion to disqualify Baylor’s counsel,” Judge Ellis wrote.

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